The modernizing of the New York Giants' offense relies on several variables: offensive coordinator Jason Garrett's scheme, quarterback Daniel Jones' pocket awareness, and the offensive line's adequacy in the trenches.
All of these factors proved to be significant deficiencies during the 2020 season. But one unit took an important step forward on paper this offseason, the wide receivers.
With Jones's tangible traits and ability to throw the ball downfield, the offense's evolution must include more go-routes and field-stretching vertical routes.
Adding receivers like Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and John Ross should all contribute in that area. But what combinations can the Giants deploy to increase the effectiveness of their pass catchers?
Let's run down the possibilities.
Most NFL teams stay away from 10-personnel packages since they prefer to have a tight end on the field, but Arizona head coach Kliff Kingsbury has tried to change that narrative.
The Giants? Last year, they only ran 10-personnel one time, per Sharp Football Stats, an 11-yard pass completion. Given the injuries that caused Sterling Shepard to miss games and with Darius Slayton trying to fight through injuries last year as well, the Giants were understandably squeamish about running 10-personnel.
This year with a better assortment of receivers, this package would allow the Giants to have their best-receiving options on the field at once, entirely taking out the element of chip blocks from the tight ends off the edge.
The Giants could theoretically have Kenny Golladay, Shepard, Kadarius Toney, and Slayton on the field at the same time using 10-personnel. Opposing defenses would have a fit holding down shifter route-runners on shorter concepts, as long as the boundary receivers draw attention from the safeties over the top.
Having a mobile quarterback like Daniel Jones also plays an essential part in this package's use. Linebackers would have to stay in the box to spy on Jones and ensure running back Saquon Barkley isn't releasing for a pass.
Keeping a numbers advantage in the box is essential for the defense; they can get burned by running quarterbacks or half-back draws.
The primary issue with 10-personnel is pass-protection. Without blocking help from tight ends, it's easy for the offensive line to be overwhelmed off the edge.
Considering how poor the Giants' offensive line performed last season, running 10-personnel isn't advisable until both Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart prove they can survive on an island.
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Featuring one running back, one tight end, and three wide receivers, this package is often used to create complex schematics to bait defenders into making mistakes. The Giants used this package 55% last season with a 42% overall success rate.
Having a burner in Slayton and an elite possession receiver in Golladay on the outside should give the rest of the offense an advantage with their matchups, pulling safeties into the deep secondary.
Two deep threats help keep defenders out of the box, which would aid Barkley in the running game. Condensing the formation with Shepard and Toney will give the Giants more room to operate on mesh routes and curls. This is primarily effective in the red zone when the throwing windows shrink.
Consider this clip, where Shepard runs a stab route with an outside release. Out of 11-personnel, the Eagles' defense is forced to play man-coverage close to the goal line since the receivers are bunched.
A condensed formation creates confusion at the line of scrimmage, and Shepard takes advantage with a savvy release that forces the outside corner to shift assignments.
The potential for the offense in 11 personnel is endless, as they can mix and match their receiving core to fit the opponent best.
For the sake of argument, if the Giants were taking on a fundamentally, physically imposing corner like James Bradberry, they might prefer a smaller, quicker receiver like Shepard or John Ross.
Against a corner like Adoree' Jackson, they might prefer Golladay, who can high point passes and use his frame to get into an advantageous position.
The Giants' field position can operate with speed options on the outside or quicker interior receivers to create separation immediately. In 3rd-and-short situations, I would expect to see Toney and Shepard on the field.
According to USA Today, the league-wide average for 12 personnel hovers around 16%, but Garrett loves himself two tight-end sets, the GIants using 12-personnel 27% of the time last season with a 50% success rate. This formation teases run, which can open up play-action for athletic tight ends like Evan Engram.
Engram earned his first Pro Bowl appearance last season and is a focal point in the Giants' passing game, so this formation heavily relies on his abilities to get open. However, only two receivers featured in 12-personnel, so the reasonable expectation is that Golladay and Shepard will be on the field during these packages.
One of the Giants' more underrated receivers is Barkley, who caught 91 passes on 121 targets during his rookie season. He tallied 721 yards and four scores.
Having two tight-ends on the field can aid in the screen game, allowing them to reach the second level and deliver blocks. Unless Garrett featured a more vertical offense in 2021, I anticipate the Giants working out of 12-personnel, especially on earlier downs -- the acquisition of Kyle Rudolph likely attests to that.